The stirring of a story that would become The Last Day of Regret.
Looking back on this year and what occurred; one milestone moment in my life was publishing my first book. A 10-month process came to fruition in mid-April. I received my first box of freshly printed copies of my long awaited memoir and to my wife’s prediction; I had tears in my eyes. I finally fulfilled a promise I had made to myself and to my sister Hannah.
I have always dreamt of writing a book, probably since I was a kid but more realistically since college. As a kid, I would write about my summer adventures and fantasy stories of a super powered boy who had a dragon that could change colors. I think I was trying to mix my fascination with Dragon Ball, a now classic anime series, with the fantasy books I had been reading.
In college one summer, I remember having a conversation with my sister Hannah who was at a church high school summer conference. One of my college friends was a leader that year, while I was away at an internship in California, and my friend let Hannah call me.
We cried together as she had expressed her re-dedication to follow Jesus. She was 16 and just finished one of her hardest years as a teenager with many more to follow. However, in that moment, I knew my sister was being ministered to in a way that she needed. I celebrated with her and encouraged her as I had set out to do in the years prior, as her brother who wanted to carry her burdens for her.
My calling into youth ministry was partly because of seeing her struggles as a teenager and my desire to express to all teenagers that high school does not define you. Do not allow your teenage years, a fraction of your life; determine what you think the rest of your life will be like.
“Do not allow your teenage years, a fraction of your life; determine what you think the rest of your life will be like.”
There is always hope for a better tomorrow no matter what your feelings are about today. Making a decision to harm yourself, whether it be drugs, cutting, contemplating suicide, attempting suicide or even worse committing suicide, during your teenage years is heart breaking. There is so much life to experience and the world to see outside of your high school years, to make that kind of life altering decision.
That summer I spent in California, working with college students at a church to train and equip them for ministry, was a challenge. I fractured a bone in my foot the first week of the summer falling off a tree swing. The tree was on a hill so the ground was lower from where I started. I was only on crutches for five weeks, but that was half the summer. I remember sitting in my room at my host family’s house one night after my conversation with Hannah thinking about a book.
I remember drawing a title for the book. I had the vision in my head of a sketch of a heart with scratches on it. The front cover would be a High School hallway with red lockers and random sketches all over it and in the middle of the heart it would say, “Scars and Pink Hearts.” I do not think I actually wrote anything, but it was for my sister Hannah.
Pink was Hannah’s favorite color and the scars represented her cutting herself and her broken heart. What I heard from her over the phone was that she felt like God was healing her broken heart. This book would be my encouragement to her of how much life there is to live. It would be my message to all teenagers that the value of your life should not be decided in middle school, high school or even college.
I think it goes both ways, whether you have a tough life, or a great life, anything can change. The person with a great life should not be caught off guard when the storm comes, if their faith is built on a solid foundation. The teenagers who is dealing with the worst of what life throws at them, and finds they are in sinking sand, need to call for help and not deal with their pain in isolation.
All this to say, I did not really have a complete story to tell. It was mostly anecdotes as a college student working with teenagers and having just been one, knowing the hope I had during those years.
The irony is that I did write this book, just not in the way I had anticipated. The Last Day of Regret is my message to Hannah of what I wished I could say if she were still here. They are words of admission of wrongdoing on my part and pain recognized too late. This book was not written from the perspective of a carefree, joyful and hopeful college student seeking to change the lives of teenagers, as I had once believed.
This story is written with years of pain, sorrow, time and perspective. It is a message founded in the reality of tragedy and the hope that needs to be sought after. I look back at myself that summer, being frustrated I had limited mobility but still hopeful about God’s plans for my life and my sister. God was preparing me even then, for a story that would eventually unfold onto paper; the story just needed time to develop.
It was not written in a way I would have planned, but was written because I had made a promise that summer to write something for Hannah someday. If you have not had a chance, please consider honoring my sister’s life by reading her story of redemption. Reading how God healed the scars on a pink heart.
Matthew J. Diaz
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